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World Central Kitchen, known for providing food aid during the war, delivered millions of meals to Gaza

  • World Central Kitchen suspended operations in Gaza after an Israeli strike killed seven of its workers.
  • The organization, known for its food aid, is rethinking its long-term plans in the region following the incident.
  • Founded in 2010, the charity delivers meals to areas affected by disasters and conflict.

World Central Kitchen, the food charity founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, has suspended its work in the Gaza Strip after an apparent Israeli strike killed seven of its workers, mostly foreigners.

The group, which said it would soon make decisions on longer-term plans in the region, has brought much-needed food to Gazans facing widespread hunger and pioneered recently launched efforts to bring aid by sea from Cyprus to deliver.

Its absence, even if temporary, is likely to deepen the war-torn territory’s misery as the United Nations warns of looming famine.

WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN suspends Gaza operations after seven aid workers were killed in an “unforgivable” Israeli airstrike

Here’s a look at the charity’s work in Gaza and what its absence could mean.

World Central Kitchen

A member of the World Central Kitchen prepares a pallet of humanitarian aid for transport to the port of Larnaca, from where it will be shipped to Gaza at a warehouse on March 13, 2024. The food aid organization has suspended its work in the Gaza Strip after an apparent Israeli strike left seven of its workers dead. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias, File)

WHAT IS WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN?

Founded in 2010, World Central Kitchen delivers freshly prepared meals to people in need or in conflict following natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes. The group has also provided meals to migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border as well as hospital staff who worked tirelessly during the coronavirus pandemic.

The aid group deploys teams that can quickly and at scale prepare meals that appeal to local palates.

“When you talk about food and water, people don’t want a solution in a week or a month. The solution must be now,” Andrés is quoted as saying on the group’s website.

World Central Kitchen has worked in dozens of affected areas and currently has teams in Haiti addressing the needs of Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion and providing meals to those affected by the war in Gaza.

WHAT DID IT DONE DURING THE GAZA WAR?

Teams from the charity have spread across the region since Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israel on October 7 and during the war it sparked. According to its website, it has fed Israelis displaced by the attack, as well as former hostages and people in Lebanon displaced by fighting with Israel. However, the most demanding work was in Gaza.

In Gaza, the group says it has distributed more than 43 million meals to Palestinians.

The group has set up two main kitchens, in the southern city of Rafah and the central city of Deir al-Balah. It supports 68 community kitchens across the territory and serves more than 170,000 hot meals daily. The group intensified its work during Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims traditionally fast from sunrise to sunset and then eat a sumptuous meal, distributing 92,000 food boxes, or about 4.7 million meals.

The group has also provided meals through airdrops and directed two sea shipments carrying hundreds of tons of food to the northern Gaza Strip, where the food crisis is most acute.

In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Andrés credited the charity’s sea shipments with prompting the U.S. to say it would build a floating pier to ship aid to Gaza by sea.

“I think that was our success,” he said.

What does the charity’s absence mean for the people of Gaza?

As World Central Kitchen ceases operations immediately, tens of thousands of meals per day will not be able to be served.

After the deadly attack, a Cypriot Foreign Ministry spokesman said aid ships that arrived in Gaza this week would return to the Mediterranean island nation with about 240 tons of undelivered aid. Around 100 tons have already been unloaded, the spokesman said.

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Other aid organizations are still on the ground providing aid to the Palestinians, including the United Nations. But aid groups say supplies are not arriving quickly enough and, once in Gaza, delivery is hampered by logistical problems and the constant fighting. Israel denies there are food shortages in the Gaza Strip and blames the United Nations and other aid agencies for failing to increase supplies within the territory.

World Central Kitchen pioneered the two sea shipments that have arrived in Gaza so far. It was not clear in what capacity the maritime corridor would continue without the group, but the president of Cyprus said on Tuesday that more aid could be shipped from Cyprus to Gaza before the end of the month as the US plans to build a floating ship complete pier off the coast of the Palestinian territory.

President Nikos Christodoulides said aid deliveries between Cyprus and Gaza “will continue because the humanitarian needs are there.”

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